Tick Tock

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.
~ Steve Jobs


It all began with a message form one of you:

Background: Our teachers have always researched and implemented various “scheduling” sites to host on their Announcement Page to allow their students use and make appointments for DBAs, monthly calls and so on…but those sites such as FLASH appointments either cost the organization money or are now offline.

Idea: Would it be possible to incorporate a “scheduler” into Educator so the student could click and make an appointment with their teacher RIGHT THERE in the course? The teacher could have the option to “block out” times on the scheduler so students/parents couldn’t make an appointment and when one student made an appointment for say a 15 minute time period – it would not be available to anyone else to prevent double booking. And, the piece de resistance: could the Educator scheduler communicate with the FLVS Outlook calendar?

I know it’s a lot but HOW RUBUST would that make Educator?

We know your calendars are pretty full, aren’t they? We know you need to schedule time to talk with students. From time to time, you need to make appointments with parents or supervisors as well. Have we got a tool for you!


What? No cheering? No excitement? Don’t you appreciate how this tool called a calendar could be a big help in planning and managing your time? You were expecting something new and different? Well, take a look at this one:


Now we’re getting somewhere! Let’s get through some explanation and take a closer look.

Your new calendar is a lot more than neat colored boxes. It’s a tool for you, and it’s also a tool for your students! This is going to be a bit more complex than most enhancements, so please follow along. Please remember: you can always ask questions (and offer answers) in our Facebook community or the comments section here.

This new calendar is best used to indicate office hours. Think of it as a sign on your door, letting students (and others) know when they can schedule an appointment (15-minute blocks) to meet with you. It might be every day; it might be only on Tuesday mornings. That’s entirely up to you. It’s important to understand that this calendar is NOT a reflection of when you are available. It is rather a management tool to allow others to schedule time with you. Once you get rolling and help your students understand, you’ll get it. For the sake of your own sanity, start slowly. Take a few hours over a day or a few days and see what happens.

First, there are some ground rules for greater understanding:

  • Teachers must activate the calendar in a course.
  • Activating the calendar in one course will activate the calendar in all courses.
  • This release of the calendar applies the SAME SCHEDULE for all checked days. At this time, you cannot have different daily schedules. You can choose which days to use, but every day will have the same schedule. SECRET NOTE: We do have a way to adjust the daily schedule.
  • Teacher calendars are global.
  • The calendar is identical in each course taught. On any teacher calendar in any course, the listed appointments are identical and will show scheduled appointments across all teaching courses.
  • Student calendars, however, are course-specific.
  • Appointments with teachers only appear within the calendar inside that particular course.
  • Both teachers and students can schedule, edit, or delete appointments.
  • Teachers have total control of office hours.

Those are the basic ground rules. Are you ready to give it a whirl? Let’s get better control of your time!

Forever is composed of nows.
~ Emily Dickinson

The first step is to activate your calendar. You can enable your calendar from any course by visiting the calendar link. The first thing you will need to do is to edit your availability.


The day you set this up will be highlighted with the note to “Click EDIT AVAILABILITY to enable appointments.” Remember that your availability will be open to students and others to schedule 15-minute blocks of time. With that in mind, you might want to start small … a couple of hours on a couple of days. It’s up to you. This calendar is an evolutionary enhancement. At the current time … whatever hours you select will apply to all days checked. For example, if you select 8am to 10am as your hours and Tuesday and Thursday as your days, then every TUE and THU will be open for students to schedule meetings between those hours. Are you still with us here?

When you edit/create your availability, there will be some choices you will need to make:


  1. First, you will need to activate course appointments.
  2. Select the days you want to accept appointments made by others.
  3. What hours will you commit to here?
  4. Would you like to receive reminders about appointments?
  5. When a student creates an appointment, do you want an email sent your way?

When you schedule receipt of reminders, you will be asked to select the time frame in which they will occur:


While we’re on the subject of reminders, they will appear for you …


… and for your students as well:


The toolbar has also joined this calendar enhancement. From within any course in which you are working, you will be able to click the calendar drop-down to view the appointments scheduled for today:


Clicking on an appointment will take you to either that course (for the students or for appointments without a student tagged to it) or to the grade report for that student. This should save some time, right? We’re almost done getting through the first level of this first release. Are you still there?

There are two buttons in the top right of your calendar page: CALENDAR FEED and CALENDAR LINK. Teachers can also export their calendars to Outlook , Google Calendar, iCal, or whatever calendar you might choose! Really? Yes! Click on the CALENDAR FEED button, and you will see this:


Copy the link and paste it into your Calendar program of choice. For our purposes here, we will use Microsoft Outlook as an example. We cannot give instructions for every calendar because we don’t use them all. We will help you, and your fellow teachers will surely help you, if you post questions on our Facebook page. Back to Outlook …

Add a calendar from the Internet:


Paste in the URL copied above:


The YES button should suffice:


Once it’s all done, you calendar in Outlook will automatically reflect any appointments made in tour Educator calendar.


This will require an Internet connection, and you will need to refresh the views in your calendar. Give it a try!

The CALENDAR LINK button is for something else. This will create an HTML link that you can use on your Announcement page or even in an email.


Copy and paste that link wherever you like and see the result.

There are some final notes about the calendar worth sharing at this time. If you need or want to block off times temporarily (meaning this week or this day), you can just schedule an appointment for yourself that simply says BUSY. This will block off that time from the student view. Appointments for other students will simply show as “Busy” in red. Any appointments for the student show in blue. Any appointments for a course they are in are shown in green.

That’s enough for now. Your questions will surely follow, but the information above should get you started. Anything else?

Sticky Snippets

There is actually another enhancement that was just rolled out for you. This one actually began on Facebook:

First, I LOVE the snippets. They are very helpful with speeding up the process of grading. When I grade, I grade in order of assignments. So my snippet tag of “module 1” gets used first. But every time I go to a new assignment, I have to re-select the module 1 tag. Is there a way the tag can be “locked” from one assignment to the next? I appreciate all you do.

As long as you are in the same browser, your selections will now stick … Sticky Snippets! Thanks for all your suggestions and comments. We grow more robust with your help … and we appreciate you.

The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.
~ Sam Walton


key compass pb1

By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes: a sort of information map.
And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful.

~ David McCandless

actions1Educator plans to help you find your way more effectively in the next few weeks. We are building a way for you to better find and engage your students.

New tools are being introduced to improve your understanding of where your students have been and where they are likely to be.
Some students are active in the early morning, and others find their best work is completed late at night.
It would seem to be helpful to know who is working when. Right?
There are many times when a graphic representation of information does the fastest job of giving you a picture of data.
We’ve begun gathering information about how and when your students are working in your course. Our first step has been to look at when every student is active in your course and portray that information quickly and clearly for your review.
Every student will now have a heat map illustrating the most active times spent in your particular course.

Click on the ACTIONS menu for any student and select the Heat Map option. That will open a graphic similar to this:


Select your preferred color from the drop-down menu. The darker the color, the more active the block of time for the student will be. Simply put, the darker blocks highlight the more active times in this particular course.
As the year progresses, more data will be available and present an even more reliable picture of a student’s availability. This could be a great help for scheduling appointments or collaborative activities. This is only step one, as we are launching a pilot this week to record when a student visits what lessons.

Visit the heat map and let us know how to make it even more useful for you. Maybe we’ll all have the same great idea!

All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.
~ Earl Nightingale

Master Remind

The best thing to spend on your children is your time.
~ Louise Hart


It was almost a year ago when we introduced reminders to the Educator landscape. Many of you make regular use of this feature, and it seems to serve you well. It serves as one more tool in your toolbox for getting the job of guiding your students done. We recently read about how this tool could be improved even more:

Hello! I love the “reminder” feature in the student gradebook. I would love if that were a feature I didn’t have to do individually.
For example, whenever I get a new student in class, I post a welcome message with information.
Last week, I received 22 new students and had to load each message individually.
It’s worth it because I get a better response from the “reminders” than I do sending an email, but it is time consuming.

I also use the “reminder” feature to load help videos when students reach a certain module, if I notice they have skipped a DBA, are missing the collaboration, in the grace period, or are a certain percent complete.

Start with your Course Roster (Students) …


Select Mass Edit Reminders. You’ll get to the Mass Reminder page.
This one has a few of the drop-down selections already opened.

Just filter the list as always. It’s familiar, and it’s powerful. Then go through your Quick Fill choices. The Mass Reminder should have saved you quite a bit of time and caught the attention of your students. Please let us know as always. And just as seen on TV … there’s more!

I was wondering if you could implement a feature where I can clear all reminders at once.
I spend Monday mornings typing out the weekly assignments due.
It would be helpful to clear out the previous week’s reminders with one feature. Thanks!

Can you already see how to accomplish this in Quick Fill? Whatever you put up here will replace what’s down below. One shot will take care of them all! If you need a refresher on the Reminder Feature, just get started at this previous post. If you’re all set, then dig in and have some fun!

Is what I’m doing or about to do getting us closer to our objective?
~ Robert Townsend




We’d never have got a chance to go outside and look at the earth if it hadn’t been for space exploration and NASA.
~ James Lovelock

When that first rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral more than sixty-five years ago, no one knew about a giant leap for mankind or a flyby over Pluto. That launch inaugurated an era that opened minds and nurtured innovations. Those rocket developers didn’t know where their exploration of two-stage launching would lead.

Bumper 8 - first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral - July 24, 1950

Bumper 8 – first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral – July 24, 1950

That first launch was by no means a complete success. Fortunately, it was successful enough to continue our advance into space exploration. Your development team at Ucompass Educator has been successful enough to continue our mission to become the best possible platform for helping you manage and launch teaching and learning on a daily basis. Realization of our goal would never be possible without your continued comments and ideas. Thanks in advance.

There has been a host of “backend stuff” that was pushed out this week. You won’t see any of it. Our close integration with VSA is growing even closer. Things like exporting due dates and assessment labels are the starting point (like that launch above) for getting you more of the information you need where and when you need it. We are one step closer, one launch closer, than we were a week ago.

We’ve been looking …
for ways to help you communicate even more effectively with your students.
We’ve been studying …
how you use the tools currently available.
We’ve been working …
at ways to design and program a multi-stage communication rocket for your use.
We’re wondering what you think …


What kind of tools do you need?

How about this idea? >>> Perhaps if I speed things up, it will be even more meaningful to the reader. >>> If nothing else, it will display my grasp of HTML tags. >>> And everyone knows that the more bells and whistles you can throw into a page on the internet, then the more powerful will be your message. >>> Right?

What would work best for you?




What really resonates with your students?

The developers are working to make your HTML efforts easier to create and edit. It’s a long road, but we will be getting there in the coming months. You may not be able to marquee your message or dance with hot dogs when we’re done. We will get you what you need to get the job done. Feel free to share what you think you need anytime you want.

Get closer than ever to your customers.
Get so close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.
~ Steve Jobs

Making Tracks

It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage that we move on to better things.
~ Theodore Roosevelt

“Where have you been?,” they said.
“We’ve been working. How are you?,” was our reply.
“Fine. Missed you some.”
“We’re still here. We’re getting the work done.”


We’ve been working! That’s right. We’re still here, and we even brought some goodies for all teachers, students, and curriculum! Here goes …

Grading Queue for Teachers

I REALLY would love an indicator of how many ungraded assignments are waiting in each course on the course view list. It’s frustrating to go in and check each course to find there’s nothing. Been asking for this for many years and keep hearing it’s coming/being worked on. Any update?

When you sign into Educator and you do not have a default course selected, you’ll be presented with an expanded table.


A similar table will be presented when you click OTHER COURSES from the toolbar. Notice the new column field:


The grading queue lists how many assessments there are to be graded in your workflow in each course. This might help you plan your time or trajectory more efficiently.

Question Flags for Students

Remember when a number two pencil was the only way to take a test? Did you ever mark questions you wanted to review later, if there was time? A star or check or dot would let you know to go back to some question and double-check your guess or at least make one. Flagging has now come to Educator for your students!


Your students will be able to flag questions on any exam or quiz. Think of if as a number two star or a bookmark. They can scroll through the exam or quiz as always, or they can now navigate from one question to the next. Sometimes the sheer volume of questions can be frightening, and this should help calm those nerves. Students who prefer keyboard (non-mobile) navigation may also use ALT+P or ALT+N hot keys to navigate to the previous or next question. And just as seen on TV … there’s more!


The Exam Navigation Bar (on the bottom of every exam or quiz) will present a dropdown as well. A student can readily view and navigate to any question (answered or not answered) or any flagged one. Let your students know, and let us know what you think.

AIR Assessments for Curriculum

The following came a few months back from the curriculum department:

This link will show you a sample of the assessment types. We are thinking about ways to bring this type of functionality into practice items in the course. It would we great if we could also offer this functionality in the assessment tools.

Preparing for these assessments proved to be a massive upgrade, but Educator is on its way! All of the exam creation and editing screens have been updated. The backend files have been trimmed, cleaned, and tested. Three new question types from the above AIR Assessments have been added. The new types are Correction, Correction with Options, and Hot Text Items (aka Drag and Drop Matching). If you know a content developer, tell them to take a look.

Time to get back to the drawing board. Thanks as always for being here and leaving your comments, questions., and ideas. Enjoy your day!


Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.
~ Dwight D. Eisenhower


It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
~ Wilbur Wright

Welcome back to all those who might have been enjoying wonderfully quiet corners on a couch or dancing happy toes in cool water. Your Educator team is on a long mission to better personalize the user experience for you and your students. We have sketched a strategy, and your input continues to be a big part of it. Why mention this today?

Credit Ben Cooper - LaunchPhotography.com New Horizons Liftoff - 1/19/06

Credit Ben Cooper – LaunchPhotography.com
New Horizons Liftoff – 1/19/06

On July 14, 1965, Mariner 4 captured the first flyby images of Mars. This began the closeup portfolio of other planetary portraits. The above photo was snapped on January 19, 2006, when the fastest launch ever left Cape Canaveral and zoomed by the moon just nine hours later. The spacecraft then flew by Jupiter (365 million miles!) the following year. Now after more than nine years, the New Horizons spacecraft will finally cap the fifty-year mission to explore our own solar system. In less than 24 hours the New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto. Learn and see more at NASA’s New Horizons website. We admire great vision and execution, and we wanted to share this with you.

Master Notify

BTW … we added a little something since we were here last week. This began with your email …

When a TA grades an assignment and provides feedback – and the student RESPONDS to that feedback, it is sent back to the TA as an email – – sounds correct and groovy so far HOWEVER — therein lies the problem. The response from the student ONLY goes to the TA and does not get copied to the Master teacher.

Proposed Solution:
Is there a way to add a check box under the “Email grade/comments to” field that says “Master Teacher”? If this box is checked it would automatically CC the Master teacher on the feedback left by the TA **AND** if the student responds, it keeps the Master teacher in the communication train???

Give it a try, and let us know how it helps.


We hope you appreciate the New Horizons mission. We also trust you will enjoy our Educator mission.

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five year mission … to boldly go where no man has gone before.

~ Gene Roddenberry

With Greater Force

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You’re on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
~ Dr. Seuss

Forcing things might not always be fun, but it’s often necessary, right? You know there’s at least one more brushing in that tube of toothpaste, so you just have to force it out.


Or you might to choose to force your kids to at least taste the chicken livers on their plate at grandma’s house. Have you ever forced yourself to get out of a perfectly comfortable bed from under perfectly cozy sheets on a way too early Monday? You might have to force that last pair of shoes you had to pack into your suitcase.


Yes, forcing is often necessary, and it often helps get the job done. So, we’re back with some rather useful Educator forcing scenarios you might like to play. It’s a simple matter of follow-the-leader, and you are the leaders!


There have been some suggestions about making the Forcing page even more useful. A new Quick Fill feature has been added. First we will take a brief tour of forcing. It all starts here:


Unless you set other conditions, all students will be directed to this resource upon login. Student login is controlled by your Forcing Override selection.


Do you want every student to know that you are on vacation this week? Do you want them all to see the same page/image no matter what grade level or weeks active? Select YES in this override. Speaking of grade level and weeks active, you can now create your own Forcing Rules!


This is where you go to create those rules. These will override the course wide forcing page you setup in #1 above. Please note that in order for these rules to apply, you must have selected the default NO in the Forcing Override box (#2 above). When you click Add Forcing Rule, you will be presented with the Add Rule window. Give your rule a name and select the criteria. These rules are of your own creation.

F5_Add Rule

The conditions are grade level or weeks active. You might create rules for every week in your course, with all week one students getting Object ID 1234 and week twenty students seeing 5678. Maybe you want all seniors to see your graduation tips while ninth graders get study tips. Whatever login screen you might imagine can be delivered based on rules. Your rules will appear in the Forcing Rules table. The rule order can be changed with simple drag and drop. Rules can also be readily edited or deleted as needed. There are three important points to remember regarding the rules in this table:

1 – Only one rule will apply to a particular student.
2 – Rules are applied in the table order. Rule#1 takes precedence over Rule#2.
3 – Any Individual Forcing Condition will override a Forcing Rule.

Do you remember the Individual Forcing Conditions? Visit this blog entry for a quick refresh on the idea. A few of you have commented on how great it would be to more easily apply individual rules to certain groups of students in your classes. You will now be able to filter your class roster and COPY DOWN a rule to those listed students.

F6_Individual Fill

First, filter your list however you like. Then fill out the Quick Fill section with your selected resource and optional dates. Hit the Quick Fill button. The resource and dates will populate throughout your filtered list. That’s a Quick Fill and COPY DOWN!

PLEASE NOTE: Before you click SUBMIT review your selection. If there is any mistake hit the RESET button. There is no quick undo for a submitted individual rule. You will have to redo these selections in order to make any correction. In other words … measure twice and cut once.

Force Yourself

We’ve also been asked about setting your point of entry into any particular course. For example, you always want to open your course in your workload. That’s exactly the use case for the Force Me section.


Use the down arrow on your keyboard to scroll through your options:

  • Student Forcing
  • E-mail Inbox
  • Assessments
  • Student List
  • Gradebook

You can set each of your individual courses to take you to any of these highlighted links upon login:


Go ahead. Squeeze that tube of toothpaste just a little more.

All her life she had wanted to squeeze the toothpaste …
really squeeze it, not just one little squirt …
The paste coiled and swirled and mounded in the washbasin.
Ramona decorated the mound with toothpaste roses, as if it was a toothpaste birthday cake.

~ Beverly Cleary, Ramona and Her Mother


The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective.
You don’t have control over your situation.
But you have a choice about how you view it.

~ Chris Pine

When an artist puts pencil to paper, perspective tends to be a most important component.


What is perspective? Merriam-Webster offers the following definition: The technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the spatial relation of objects as they might appear to the eye. That makes sense. It is one way of describing perspective. There are other ways of looking at perspective …


The Free Dictionary goes a bit farther and adds a new dimension along with some variations:

  1. An understanding of how aspects of a subject relate to each other and to the whole;
  2. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view;
  3. The ability to perceive things in their actual interrelations or comparative importance.

These add new perspective to the meaning we currently have in mind.

I like to turn things upside down, to watch pictures and situations from another perspective.
~ Ursus Wehrli

You bring us new perspectives. Thank you. No matter how long it takes you to help us understand, and no matter how long it takes us to get around to the nitty-gritty, we have managed to remain good for each other, a good team. Perspective is exactly what you bring to us here on the Educator team. We spend so much time with lines of scripted code and files in containers that we could easily forget the real purpose of our mission, striving to attain service excellence in the world of teaching and learning. Educator looks very different from your point of view. It works differently today because of your point of view. You help us see how different that world can look:


AIW photo by Peter Birtolo

Smith Creek photo by PeterB

Fresh looks yield new ideas in our landscape. A new perspective can even make a familiar city look new and different.

Milwaukee Morning photo by DanG

Milwaukee Morning photo by DanG

Seeing things with new eyes goes a long way in our business. Improving the user experience demands walking in the user’s shoes. Thanks for sharing.

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.
~ Henry Ford

We’ll be back next week with some new enhancements from your perspectives. Until then, enjoy your groundbreaking summer holiday. Celebrate your independence, and feel to share your thoughts with us.

When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.
~ Stephen Covey

A Little Speed

I’m going to focus on speed, doing little things like my turns and my starts – just speed.
~ Ryan Lochte


Someone graciously holds the door open for you. Your chair is pulled out for you, when you sit at the table. A driver lets you turn left in front of him. One second in a race, one field goal, one smile, one hug … it’s amazing how little things can make some big differences, isn’t it?

Honors Note

This one just bothered us. We take full credit for achieving this balance. The student grade report did not show which assessments were designated as honors assessments! The familiar red “Honors” text will now be displayed and make us happy.


Student Help

This idea came from an entry on our Facebook page:

When teachers pull up a student’s grade report, we can see a breakdown of both Segments 1 and 2. However, when students pull up their gradebook, they can only see a breakdown of the entire class.


This does not help them when looking at an individual segment and how they can improve their grade. Can you add the breakdown of the individual segments for the students to see?

This now appears below the student’s grade report:


Clicking Zero

Someone sent this our way via email:

I was wondering if your team could make the “zero unread emails icon” clickable as well. Sometimes I want to see if I sent a student a resource already. I can click on it when there are unread messages, but not when it is “zero.”

You could check your SENT items, but that’s another step and a hunt. Now all email numbers will be your clickable portal into the student’s Educator inbox. Welcome the zero!



Email Speed

This email has been staring us in the face:

Educator email processing is worse than dial-up processing. I have literally answered an email, gone to the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee, come back to the computer and am on my third sip before the wheel stops turning…. the firs time. Then it starts up again and I am stuck for another minute or two before I can get back to what I was doing in Educator. My productivity is egregiously affected by this situation.

Wow! Let’s just say that we appreciate all your insights, both positive and negative. This is an enhancement you will not likely see with your eye. It all depends on how large your inbox has grown.

The big change here occurs whenever a user changes courses. Educator will then initiate a background process that will cache your email inbox. This SHOULD improve the viewing speed of your full inbox and the viewing of individual email messages as well. In tests with more than 600 messages, the inbox response time went from about 12 seconds down to 3 seconds. For smaller inboxes the speed difference may not be quite as noticeable. Please let us know your experiences here.

People think of these eureka moments, and my feeling is that they tend to be little things, a little realization and then a little realization built on that.
~ Roger Penrose

Eighteen Minutes


A little bird came along and landed on the developers’ window ledge today. The little bird spoke, “It’s the end of the year, and we could really use a simple export of the Usage Log.”

The developer replied, “You could probably just copy and paste it yourself into Excel.”

And the little bird answered with a smile, “ True. But you know how we like saving time, don’t you?”


It’s out right now … 18 minutes after the bird first spoke!
We’re just letting the rest of you know.